Shopping Bag


Tom Hsu - Dr. Martens Community Series

We recently caught up with Vancouver based artist and photographer Tom Hsu, where he invited us to his home studio, told us about his practice, shared stories of his families café in Richmond (Leisure Tea and Coffee) and showed off his Dr. Marten collection. We also had the chance to accompany Tom to his recent exhibition at Libby Leshgold Gallery to check out some of his latest work. To see more of Tom’s work visit his website

Tell us about your practice, how would you describe your photography style?

I work primarily with analog photography, I think something with analog allows the time to settle a bit before we actually meet again. There is always the anxiety of film not working out but seeing the result reminds me all the time- the risk is worth it. My practice is a bit all over the place, a bit diaristic with portraitures of friends, family, found still lifes, tenderness gestures caught between moments, everything going on almost.

What is your creative process? Where do you find inspiration?

I think being curious or asking questions are the first steps to start the process. Then sometimes I would go for a walk, and see things within frame and imagine how it would look on a print. I look for familiarity and seek for what has always been there, whether its images I’ve made already and reappears again in a new form or question the repetition in the chance of meeting again. I tend to work with everything around me and allow chance to happen. I think time has also become part of the medium, watching things change around and having images to look back on allows me to travel back and forth between past, present and what to look for in the future.      


While you are primarily a photographer, you incorporate installations, such as boulders and other artifacts, how do these mediums work together? 
I feel objects can also hold certain memory or nostalgia as do photos. I was curious to see how photos and objects would interact in the same space. Installation for me have been more of an exploration of what is off the wall and a break from just looking and experiencing a flat dimension. Some objects I carry with me from exhibitions to exhibitions because for me personally I seek for the familiarity with in an unfamiliar space.
Besides creating artwork, what are some of your hobbies or ways you enjoy spending free time?
I like to spend my free time being outside- hiking, biking, or a dip in the ocean. Sometimes I'd find time to bake a cake with a friend.


What music or podcasts have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to The Messy Truth Podcast with Gem Fletcher, it's a podcast dedicated on photography and Race Against Climate Change which is a podcast my friend Polly Ledger is working on. And music wise, Jean-Michael Blais, Phillip Glass, Toshio Matsuura Group, FKA twigs, Frank Ocean, Doja Cat… I’m just reading off from recently played. Sometimes I also don't listen to anything because it could get me distracted.    


Your family runs a café/restaurant in Richmond, tell us about its history and what are your favourite things to get there?

My family runs a cafe in Richmond called Leisure Tea and Coffee. We’ve been open for about 25 years now and it’s been really pleasant seeing the growth with our regular customers. We’ve seen people bring their first dates there and now they are bringing their kids in. The cafe specializes in Taiwanese snacks, coffee, tea and the aunties that works at the cafe.  Some of my favourite things to get is the shaved ice or baobing which is a summer treat includes different toppings on shaved ice, it's pretty popular dessert in Taiwan. My grandfather use to also shaved ice when he was around, so it’s nice to see how it translated over here to Canada. The chicken sandwich is also pretty good to get.        

What pair of Dr. Martens are you wearing and why did you pick this pair?

I am wearing the white 1460 Bex, I’ve picked this pair because I don’t own a pair of white boots and thought would be fun to add that to the mix.    



Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?

I am currently working on a project with my friend Stephanie Bokenfohr, we are going through some images that will be presented in a new space.  Also getting my driver’s license and thinking about a trip back to Taiwan as soon as things relaxes.  



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